Monday, December 16, 2013

Reverb 13 · Prompt 15 · Anchor

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 15: What kept you tethered in 2013?

The word tethered is a little ambiguous.  On one hand, it can imply security; without an anchor, a boat will float off course.  But on the other hand, it could also mean to be chained back, unable to escape. 

So do I consider something that is the former, the latter, or a mix of the two?

When it comes to something that's kept me anchored safely but yet has also felt like a choke chain, I have to say that it's my job.  I love reading stories about those people who left their "corporate world jobs" to pursue their passion and then succeeded in that, but the mere thought of doing that myself is too terrifying to entertain for more than a few minutes.  

Not that teaching isn't a dead-end, soul-sucking thing.  I became a teacher because I love English, and I love teaching.  But as the years go on, the profession is becoming less about inspiring students to learn and think for themselves and more to conform to standardized testing and data-driven target groups, and I'm loving it less.  That being said, it provides me a way to keep the roof over my head, my child fed and clothed, and the creature comforts to which we've become accustomed.

And my position now affords me the flexibility to get HRH to her various activities - swim, soccer, and some January, ballet (it's one of her Christmas presents), not to mention kindergarten in the fall.  I don't have to stress about taking off a half or even full day to go to the doctor or vet.

Some days, being a responsible adult sucks.  Those are the days when parents blame me for their children not submitting work (and thus failing), or when I receive some sort of notification that some set of data that is being collected isn't the most favorable number.  That tether feels more like a noose than a safety cable.

But then I look at the things I've been able to do - stay home with my daughter and critters, travel a little more than I might have, and wear yoga pants because it's Tuesday, all while being able to bring in a paycheck, and that noose loosens significantly, and being a grown up isn't quite as sucky.

Just another part of the balancing act we do every day.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reverb 13 · Prompt 14 · Feast

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 14: What was the best meal you had in 2013?  Was it slurped standing over the kitchen counter?  Was the menu written in a language you understood?  Were you alone?  Or at a table filled with family and friends?

I'm not sure that there was one full meal that was "The Best."  So many delicious foods and so many delicious meals.  We've been fortunate to break bread with friends and family throughout the year.

So instead of a one best, here's my look at The Best Of, broken into categories.

Best single plate: braised pork belly over julienned cucumbers, mangoes, and carrots

Best breakfast: chilaquiles at Liberty Market

Best Homage Meal: homemade version of Dirty Dave's Gay 90's Special Pizza and Jake Sandwich

Best "Hey! Let's See What Happens" Dinner - cheesy seafood risotto with blackened shrimp and collards

Best Burger - smoked pork burger topped with an egg at Angel's Trumpet Ale House

Best Nachtisch - salt river bar at Liberty Market

Best Reason to be Wrong - chocolate cupcakes with milk chocolate buttercream frosting

Until this frosting, I preferred my cake naked.
Best Weekend Lunch - BLfgT (bacon lettuce fried green tomato)

Best Meal from the Smoker - hoja-wrapped sausage and peppers

Best One-Dish - Shakshuka

Favorite Better-Than-the-Restaurant Meal - street tacos with pork belly, cabbage slaw, avocado, and cotija cheese with jicama-cucumber salad

Most of these meals weren't really "special occasions," but rather for simple meals with friends/family or "let's go out for a bite."  Good food, regardless of the company, is good food, but it's the company that makes good food The Best.

Reverb 13 · Prompt 13 · Favorite Things

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 13: Give us a list of your favorite things from 2013.

Considering the backlash against the newly remade, live version of The Sound of Music, I hope that you'll take more kindly to this post, but if you don't, I promise that I'll respect that and not tell you that you need Jesus.

Baking some goodies in dozens of batches,
Picking out pumpkins from big autumn patches,
One little girl in her ladybug wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cranky old kitty who just wants to be fed,
Snuggling up to me when I'm in my bed,
Stealing my chair when I get up for things,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Black and tan coonhounds with big Frito feet,
Running in all kinds of weather ('cept sleet),
Velvety ears that I hold out like wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

ASU games and pork belly at dinner,
Reading with Daddy and big soccer winner,
Anniversary wine tasting up at Page Springs,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the dog barks,
When the kid screams,
When the cat makes me mad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel, so bad!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reverb 13 · Prompt 12 · Hoops

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 12: Free writing - write for five consecutive minutes on the work jump as it pertains to this past year.  No editing.  Set a timer.  Just write.

I became a teacher because I love English.  I love to read and to write and even to do research (word nerd ALERT).  But over the past few years, I've felt like I'm teaching students (people) less and numbers more.

I don't mean that I'm teaching math now.  That would be scary for all of us, as we all know from the sliiiiiiight miscalculation I made in my 2012 mileage.

What I mean is that instead of looking at my students as, well, students - individuals who each bring something different to the table - I am now looking at them as bits and pieces of data, fit only to pre-test and test and test again, just to see if they made a specific improvement on some sort of standard set by a bunch of people who haven't actually ever taught.


I realize that we need standards in education to make sure that Johnny CAN read (hint - he actually can't, but he can fake it on a test).  But I spend more time in professional development discussing ways I can improve student achievement on tests like AIMS (the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) and the PARCC (whatever that's going to stand for whenever we start using that instead of AIMS) rather than on how I can get students excited about learning, well anything.


At the end of the day, while I want my students to be successful on their assessments, the thing I want more for them is to remember something that they learned in my class.  Whether that "something" is that being a Romeo isn't really a great thing (spoiler alert: he's kind of a dumbass, and he dies at the end), how to write an actual complete sentence, or finding inspiration in the writings of Wiesel and Achebe, I don't care.  I just want them to know that I want only to jump for joy at the fact that they leaned and thought and questioned, not that they improved a certain percentage on a test that doesn't once ask them about their connection to their learning.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reverb 13 · Prompt 11 · Fail

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 11: What just didn't work out this year?  Is that OK with you?  Or are you going to try, try again?

Failure is always easier to admit in others than it is in oneself, but without our failures, we wouldn't know our success.  And even if I'm not "OK" with my shortcomings, they are what they are, and I need to use them along with my successes to try to be the best Me possible.

A few Fails of 2013:

I Can't Do Math -- last year, I thought I'd run 700.4 miles in 2012.  Turns out, if I had actually, oh, like checked numbers or something, I'd have realized that in 2012, I actually ran 427.7 miles.  That's a difference of over 270 miles, so it's a really good thing that I'm an English teacher and not trying to prep America's youth to try to add things.
As such, you'd think that my more miles goal would also be a failure, but as of the end of November, I've still run more miles in 2013 than I did in 2012, despite my injuries.
This is probably my best failure this year.

Parenting Means Always Digging Yourself Out of a Hole -- every time I lose my patience, temper, or cool with HRH, I feel like I'm failing as a parent.  Not that I expect every day to be like this:

But when I raise my voice or use sarcasm as a response, I certainly don't feel that I'm living up to my potential as a parent or a role model.  This year, as HRH continues to grow into her full size attitude, I've been working on taking a deep breath and walking away (metaphorically) from the situation in order to resolve the standoff peacefully, with as few tears (from both of us) as possible.
It's a work in progress.

I Doom Socks -- I'm not even sure how it happens, but I go through socks like nobody's business.  Usually it's at the toe, but I discovered a pair this morning that were missing their heels.  Both of them.  Why on earth did I even put them back in the drawer?  Why did I even wash them and not just chuck them, for that matter?

But this isn't an admission of my failure to throw things away.  We'll discuss my hoarding tendencies some other time.  I think some of my friends are bringing a banner.

Yes, I maintain my paws, getting semi-regular pedicures and doing at-home up-keep in between times.  No, I don't let myself get gnarly long nails, because that's just gross.  And while Husband tells me every time he sees that I have yet another hole-y pair that I've got horrible Hobbit feet, I really try to take care of my feet, since without healthy feet, I'm sitting at home instead of out for a run.
But as sock weather is once again upon us, I've realized that almost every single pair of socks I own that are Not For Running Socks could use a good darning at best, or need to be tossed in the trash at worst.  As for For Running Socks, those are on a regular rotation from drawer to trash bin every few months.
I mean, seriously.  I don't even wear socks for most of the year here in Arizona, so how on earth does my purchase of a pair mean a certain death sentence for them mere months later?

OK, OK.  So that last one isn't really a failure failure in the same category of not being able to do simple math or faltering as a mother.  But if I can't make light of my failures, I won't be able to revel in my triumphs.

The 2013 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Cookies, I have decided, are NOT my forte.  While I love me a good chocolate chip with milk, my cookie baking karma isn't quite up to snuff.  I'm not sure if my oven isn't properly calibrated (it's possible) or it's just too warm/dry here in Arizona (also possible), but my cookie-making prowess isn't even a tenth of what I'd like it to be.
Even in the face of my cookineptitude (I also love me a good portmanteau), I boldly signed up for this year's Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (this is its third year).  Why did I do it?  Because I'm crazy each year, the cookie swap raises and donates money to Cookies for Kids Cancer, an amazing organization that raises money for research and new treatments for pediatric cancer.  You may know that different cancers require different treatments, but what you may not know is that many oncology treatments are not considered appropriate or safe for children.  Testing is "iffy" (I think that's the technical term), since medical testing on children is, well, horrifying to some and considered unethical by just about everyone.  As such, developing appropriate treatments is difficult and often more expensive.  And while I rage against the colon cancer that took my dad, I'm often brought to my knees at how pediatric cancer has affected my life, even if not as dramatically.  My dear friend Kirsten lost her sister to cancer; Lily, my friend Alicia's daughter, lost her battle last December, and my husband's baby brother fought (and has won, so far) two rounds of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  Losing a parent to cancer is awful, heinous, and vile.  Losing a child to cancer, well, I haven't found any words that could bring justice to it.
And being armed as such, with no words to comfort those who have lost their children and siblings and friends to pediatric cancers, I happily tied my apron and failed gloriously at my first attempt at the cookies I was to send out for this year's cookie swap.
So I went to the store, bought more butter, and failed again at a completely. different. recipe.
Good cause or not, at that point, I was ready to break things.  And yes, I cried.  I was actually this close:  | |  to running back to the store for some pre-made, preservative-filled slice and bake... things.
But instead, I took a deep breath, double checked the recipe, made some modifications, and managed a cookie that was tasty and (sort of) pretty.
And then I shipped them off, swearing I'd never make cookies ever again.

So here's the deal.  The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is kind of a round robin, pay it forward, secret Santa situation.  Each participant is given the names and addresses of three other participants, but everyone is sworn to secrecy as to who sends to whom (while this wasn't a big deal for me, since I have never known the people to whom I send my cookies, it's possible in food blogging circles that the participants know each other).  But the three people to whom I sent my cookies were not the same people from whom I received cookies.
Am I making sense?
I didn't think so.
Really, the only thing you need to know is that you reap what you sow - send three packages of cookies out (a dozen each), and you shall receive three packages in return.

We won't discuss the first recipe I attempted.  But that's OK.  The cookie I finally ended up with was, I think, a much better idea at the end of the day anyway.
Now that I've made mustard, ice cream, and pie with beer, it was time to move on to the cookie.  Beer is great with cookies.  In fact, the brewery whose beer I used for this recipe serves its seasonal Winter Warmer with gingersnaps.  So what better ingredient to add to a cookie recipe?  Using a winter seasonal offers a taste of the holiday season without being smacked in the face with it (I'm looking at you, craft stores selling cinnamon-scented pine cones).  For the flavor to really come through, don't worry about adding any additional spices.  You'll still be able to taste them all.  Trust me.
But just in case, you'd better pour yourself a beer.

Winter Spiced Ale and Brown Sugar Cookies
Adapted from The Beeroness

  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (but not too soft)
  • 1 1/2 c dark brown sugar (you can use light, but I prefer the darker, mostly for color)
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 c winter seasonal spiced ale (I used San Tan Brewing Company's Rail Slide Imperial Spiced Ale; if you can't get Rail Slide near you, I'm really sorry, but I'm sure your local craft beer place has a great winter seasonal as well)
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp corn starch

**The original recipe calls for baking powder as well.  I tried with and without the baking powder, and it made a huge difference in my cookies not spreading and turning into one super-cookie during the baking process, so if you have an unpredictable oven or, like me, bad baking karma, I recommend that you also omit it.

In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Add the egg yolk and vanilla.  Add the beer and beat until just combined.
Add the flour mixture to the beer mixture and combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Do not over-mix.
Using a cookie scoop, a melon baller, or a spoon, scoop out balls of dough (smaller than a golf ball but larger than a marble) and place onto parchment paper-covered cookies sheets (or, if you're all fancy, use Sil-Pat; I am not fancy).
Chill at least a half hour.
Preheat the oven to 325°.  Take cookies from the refrigerator directly to the oven and back for 7-8 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown.
Place the cookies on a cooling rack immediately to cool.

And off they, went, to their new homes!

Just kidding - I did actually pack them in pretty tins.
These ale cookies went to:
Guten Appetit, ladies - I hope you enjoyed them, with or without a pint!  Check out their blogs, too, to see where their goodies ended up going!

Of course, while I do subscribe to the "it's better to give than to receive" policy, it was exciting to check the mailbox this month, knowing that I'd be having a snack shortly thereafter (HRH was pretty excited about that, too, and she was crushed when I told her that it would happen a mere three times).

Thanks to Melissa at Treats with a Twist for her white chocolate-dipped cranberry walnut macaroons, Zainab at Blahnik Baker for her soft and chewy butterscotch gingersnaps (or as Husband says, buttah-scotch), and Monique at Ambitious Kitchen for her white chocolate, cherry, and macadamia nut oatmeal cookies.  All three Philistines devoured them, and HRH even found a new love for coconut (in cookie form, at least), while Husband was thrilled to have a chewy gingersnap ("I just don't like crunchy cookies").  And even though HRH is sad that the cookies in the mail have come to an end, it's probably a good thing for my waistline that they did, for who can resist freshly baked cookies, delivered to your door (not me, that's certain)???

A big shout out goes to all of the participants (and even some who couldn't participate but who donated anyway) in this year's Great Food Blogger Cookies Swap; together, we have raised $13,778.40 for Cookies for Kids Cancer.  My heart is full that so many people wanted to not only share their delicious cookies but also make a difference for those who are engaged in a battle that they, unlike me, do not have the luxury of failing.  If you have ever doubted that people are truly kind in nature, just take this into consideration.
Thank you, too, to this year's sponsors, OXO, Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma's Molasses, and to Lyndsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen for once again planning this incredible event.
If you'd like the chance to sign up for the next cookie swap, you can add you name to the list here.
A link that gives a list of all the participants and their recipes will be added soon.

Full disclosure: I did receive some awesome OXO spatulas as a gift for my participation in the cookie swap, but as this little blog is a mere hobby of mine, I wasn't asked to give my opinion on any of the aforementioned brands or of the spatulas.  I didn't specifically use the brands (I've actually NEVER used molasses), and aside from OXO, I can't personally vouch for their quality (I have several OXO products, and so I was pretty stoked to receive the spatulas; also, I love the word spatula and wanted to see how many times I could use it in a blog post).  However, I thank them all of my own accord for not shirking their corporate and civic responsibilities and for using their brands to make a positive difference in the lives of children.

One more thing - if you also love the word spatula, this is for you:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reverb 13 · Prompt 10 · Spark

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 10: What inspired you this year?  How do you think this will impact the year to come?

As we come up to the one-year anniversary of the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, I'm reminded of the shock and disbelief with which I received the news last year.  Like many parents that day, I picked HRH up from school early so that I could hold her closely, a truly selfish act when so many families that same night were not going to be able to do the same with their own babies.  I still don't understand why an elementary school was the setting for something so senseless (not that any other setting would be "appropriate").  The faces of those beautiful children still tear me to pieces.

This morning, I saw that town officials and the families of the children were asking for privacy during this weekend, something I hope that society and the media honor.  But what truly stood out to me was that the families were asking people, in lieu of flocking to Newtown, to give back to their own communities.

"In this way, we hope that some small measure of goodness may be returned to the world." (JoAnn Bacon, mother of Charlotte, 6 years old)

I admit that I wallowed in grief following my dad's death for too long.  It was easy to become so ridiculously absorbed in my own feelings that I ignored the fact that I was - and am - still alive and healthy and fully able to have a positive impact on my community, something for which I so looked up to my dad for doing (I still do, actually).  So for these families to have come to this understanding while they continue to sort their lives out and find a new footing refreshes my resolve to make my world a better place.  How I do that or what I do doesn't matter; what matters is that I am acting with kindness.

This weekend, then, in memory and honor of all of the lives lost a year ago (an almost-full list of names is here; most lists omit the mother of the shooter, although she is mentioned later in the article) our family activity will seek to do Good.  More importantly, the request of these families will be the foundation of any resolutions or goals that we set for our family in 2014.  I hope that you may also take some time to Do Good in order to make that "small measure of good" become exponentially larger - and brighter - than the darkness of December 14, 2012.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reverb 13 · Prompt 9 · Shock and Awe

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 9: What surprised you the most this year?

I don't really "do" surprises, although Husband has always, I mean always been able to surprise me for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas.  He even helped my students throw me a surprise baby shower when I was pregnant with HRH (that was my first surprise party ever, and it took at least 45 minutes for my heart to stop racing).  I'm not as good at them, so I rarely get to be the surprisER, being instead the surpriseEE.

This year was filled with few shockers, for which I think we can be thankful.

The one that stands out, for both its inconvenience and hilarity: four-year-olds have a remarkable ability to use up all of one's iPad/laptop memory just with in-app photographs (worst idea EVER) and more selfies than an all-girls' high school.

I currently have over 2000 photos on my laptop, just since March.  A quick estimate places Disney Princess Palace Pets and selfies numbering approximately 1754 of those.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reverb 13 · Prompt 8 · Adventure

#Reverb13 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December that is meant to give participants the chance to reflect on the past year and take the opportunity to write down some hopes for the coming year.

Prompt 8: Did you go on an adventure in 2013?  What sort?

ADVENTURE (according to Merriam Webster)

ad-ven-ture    noun    \əd-'ven-chur\
 1. a. an undertaking usually involving danger or unknown risks
    b. the encountering of risks <the spirit of adventure>
2. an exciting or remarkable experience <an adventure in exotic dining>
3. an enterprise involving financial risk

Reverb is turning out to be an exercise in redefining those words that I'd thought were already defined.  Challenge.  Victory.  Adventure.  To be able to make those words applicable to my workaday, everyday life is...refreshing in its own right.  We tend to think - not incorrectly - that adventure takes place in faraway places and require runaway boulders or ancient treasures.  But in all reality, anything that is, as the second bullet above notes, exciting or remarkable, can be an adventure.  And I hope that all my friends and readers have experienced something exciting, remarkable, and new this year.  If they didn't, I hope that 2014 holds many of them.

An argument could be made that my running has been an adventure this year.  But I think I've already talked about that plenty, and I'm sure that the opportunity will arise for me to talk about it again (and again...).

Because Going on An Adventure also means Board the Hound and maybe even Find a Weekend Sitter for the Kid, adventures aren't commonplace in the Philistines household.  But in the past few years, Husband and I have started to make our anniversary weekend as an opportunity for some sort of adventuring, even if it's just a restaurant in town that we haven't tried yet.

This year, I insisted that we once again take up what we had enjoyed while we were in Michigan, and go away for our anniversary.  While we lived in the Mitten, we drove up to Traverse City (if only for the day) and spent a long weekend in Chicago.  We also spent one anniversary in Washington, DC, while Husband was working in an externship for the district.  Less footloose and fancy free now, this year, we drove up to Jerome.

Like many rural towns in Arizona, Jerome came into being as a mining town.  There were copper in them thar hills!  But, like many other mining towns, Jerome's renaissance has really come and gone, and today, it's hard to imagine that it once was the fourth largest city in the entire Arizona territory.  It's now known more for its "ghost town" tourism, for, like other mining towns, many sites, including the Jerome Grand Hotel (which used to be the hospital), are considered to be haunted, which attracts paranormal hunters as well as artists of all kinds.

I admit: I love ghost hunting shows.  I watch... most of them.  Husband, on the other hand, scoffs at the mere idea of the paranormal, so I knew if we were going to spend a weekend in Jerome, I needed to make sure that we were NOT there to be amateur ghostbusters.  This proved hard for me to plan, since the Jerome Grand Hotel offers a ghost hunting PACKAGE.  Be still my beating heart.  To make sure I didn't cave to temptation, I opted to stay at a bed and breakfast "downtown" instead of the hotel.  And thankfully, the Verde Valley in Arizona has one more thing that we both enjoy to offer - vineyards.

As such, we dropped off the hound at the doggie hotel, dropped HRH off at my mother-in-law's, and headed north.

Just as a note - the weekend we were in Jerome, a lightning-sparked fire started outside the town of Yarnell, a fire which ended up taking the lives of 19 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a team of 20 firefighters who had special training in fighting wildfires.  As we drove to Jerome, we saw dozens of lightning strikes, which at the time, were as beautiful as they were frightening.  Arizona, as a desert state, suffers many wildfires each year, and I am grateful to those who risk - and sacrifice - their lives to fight these fires.

Our first stop was Page Springs Cellars, which is in Cornville.  Not totally on the way to Jerome from the Phoenix Metro Area, but not that far out of the way, either.  The tasting room offered nibbles on the patio, and once we were finished, we took our glasses and meandered through the vineyard.

Arizona Chenin Blanc
(Husband enjoyed the Mule Mistake)

Easy way to drive your spouse crazy:
say "It's a party with Havarti."
Every time you eat Havarti cheese.

This was my first time as an adult spending time in a vineyard.  The last time I'd been to one, as a pup at the Ste. Michelle winery north of Seattle, I was scratched by a squirrel.  (my dad has suggested I try to feed the damn things).  Walking, with no timeline, through quiet rows of grapevines, glass in hand, no rodents in sight, was therapeutic.

But since you can't spend the night in a vineyard (I mean, I suppose you can, but I have a feeling that it's frowned upon), so we eventually made our way back to the car, the proud owners of a few new bottles of wine.

Now, Jerome itself is tiny.  One can see everything (I am not exaggerating - EVERYTHING) in town over the course of a long weekend.  And we did.  We went to the different tasting rooms (I was saddened that the Jerome Winery tasting room, where my mom and I had gone last year, was closed), walked to the state park - housed at the Douglas Mansion - and back (apparently, not too many people walk to the museum, less than a mile from our B&B, as we got plenty of odd stares from passing cars), lunched with different Arizona beers, and had our anniversary dinner at the Jerome Grand Hotel (sadly, I didn't see any ghosts while we were there - maybe next time).

The Jerome Grand Hotel, from below

Dinner view

Amber Ale from Sedona's Oak Creek Brewery

Grand Hotel to the left - the rest of Jerome to the right
The town of Jerome was named after the uncle of Winston Churchill

Beer in a mason jar - even more refreshing
(the beer was from Nimbus Brewing in Tucson)

Flight from Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards,
owned by Tool's Maynard James

The view from the Jerome Grand Hotel's steps

The view at dinner.
The rusted out car at the bottom was, at one time, a gorgeous model.
 Our last morning offered time only for breakfast before we headed back down the hill to Phoenix.  Jerome itself is on a hill, and that combined with the less than stellar Arizona soil, not much variety grows in Jerome.  However, apricot trees were in full fruit, and our last stop, the Flat Iron - one of the smallest restaurants into which I have ever set foot - offered these amazing waffles with freshly made apricot compote.

Husband was, truthfully, reluctant at first to head out of town for the weekend, especially to a place where he feared I might geek out over the possibility of ghost spectating.  But as we drove home, exultant and appreciative of being able to spend a weekend together as a reminder of why we got married in the first place, we started talking about where we can go and what we can do next June for anniversary 12, and he was just as engaged in the idea sharing as I was.

Certainly, then, 2014 will host at least one more adventure for the books.